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Title: The Cask of Amontillado

Author: Edgar Allan Poe

Release Date: June 6, 2010 [EBook #1063]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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Produced by Levent Kurnaz.  HTML version by Al Haines.









The Cask of Amontillado


by

Edgar Allan Poe



The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but
when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.  You, who so well know
the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance
to a threat.  _At length_ I would be avenged; this was a point definitely
settled--but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved,
precluded the idea of risk.  I must not only punish, but punish with
impunity.  A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its
redresser.  It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make
himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given
Fortunato cause to doubt my good will.  I continued, as was my wont, to
smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile _now_ was at
the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point--this Fortunato--although in other regards he was a
man to be respected and even feared.  He prided himself on his
connoisseurship in wine.  Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit.
For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and
opportunity--to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian
_millionaires_.  In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen,
was a quack--but in the matter of old wines he was sincere.  In this
respect I did not differ from him materially: I was skillful in the
Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the
carnival season, that I encountered my friend.  He accosted me with
excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much.  The man wore motley.
He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was
surmounted by the conical cap and bells.  I was so pleased to see him,
that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him--"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met.  How remarkably
well you are looking to-day!  But I have received a pipe of what passes
for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."

"How?" said he.  "Amontillado?  A pipe?  Impossible!  And in the middle
of the carnival!"

"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full
Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to
be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."

"Amontillado!"

"I have my doubts."

"Amontillado!"

"And I must satisfy them."

"Amontillado!"

"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi.  If any one has a
critical turn, it is he.  He will tell me--"

"Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."

"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your
own."

"Come, let us go."

"Whither?"

"To your vaults."

"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature.  I perceive
you have an engagement.  Luchesi--"

"I have no engagement;--come."

"My friend, no.  It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with
which I perceive you are afflicted.  The vaults are insufferably damp.
They are encrusted with nitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless.  The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado!
You have been imposed upon.  And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish
Sherry from Amontillado."

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a mask
of black silk, and drawing a _roquelaire_ closely about my person, I
suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in
honour of the time.  I had told them that I should not return until the
morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house.
These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate
disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato,
bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into
the vaults.  I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him
to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the
descent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of the
Montresors.

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled
as he strode.

"The pipe," said he.

"It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white web-work which
gleams from these cavern walls."

He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that
distilled the rheum of intoxication.

"Nitre?" he asked, at length.

"Nitre," I replied.  "How long have you had that cough?"

"Ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh!
ugh! ugh!"

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.

"It is nothing," he said, at last.

"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is
precious.  You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as
once I was.  You are a man to be missed.  For me it is no matter.  We
will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible.  Besides,
there is Luchesi--"

"Enough," he said; "the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me.
I shall not die of a cough."

"True--true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming
you unnecessarily--but you should use all proper caution. A draught of
this Medoc will defend us from the damps."

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of
its fellows that lay upon the mould.

"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.

He raised it to his lips with a leer.  He paused and nodded to me
familiarly, while his bells jingled.

"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us."

"And I to your long life."

He again took my arm, and we proceeded.

"These vaults," he said, "are extensive."

"The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family."

"I forget your arms."

"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent
rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."

"And the motto?"

"_Nemo me impune lacessit_."

"Good!" he said.

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled.  My own fancy grew
warm with the Medoc.  We had passed through walls of piled bones, with
casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of
catacombs.  I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize
Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.

"The nitre!" I said; "see, it increases.  It hangs like moss upon the
vaults.  We are below the river's bed.  The drops of moisture trickle
among the bones.  Come, we will go back ere it is too late.  Your
cough--"

"It is nothing," he said; "let us go on.  But first, another draught of
the Medoc."

I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave.  He emptied it at a
breath.  His eyes flashed with a fierce light.  He laughed and threw
the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.

I looked at him in surprise.  He repeated the movement--a grotesque one.

"You do not comprehend?" he said.

"Not I," I replied.

"Then you are not of the brotherhood."

"How?"

"You are not of the masons."

"Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes."

"You?  Impossible!  A mason?"

"A mason," I replied.

"A sign," he said, "a sign."

"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of
my _roquelaire_.

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces.  "But let us proceed
to the Amontillado."

"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again
offering him my arm.  He leaned upon it heavily.  We continued our
route in search of the Amontillado.  We passed through a range of low
arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep
crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to
glow than flame.

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less
spacious.  Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the
vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.  Three
sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner.
From the fourth side the bones had been thrown down, and lay
promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some
size.  Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we
perceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet in width
three, in height six or seven.  It seemed to have been constructed for
no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between
two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was
backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to
pry into the depth of the recess.  Its termination the feeble light did
not enable us to see.

"Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado.  As for Luchesi--"

"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily
forward, while I followed immediately at his heels.  In an instant he
had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress
arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered.  A moment more and I
had fettered him to the granite.  In its surface were two iron staples,
distant from each other about two feet, horizontally.  From one of
these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock.  Throwing the
links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure
it.  He was too much astounded to resist.  Withdrawing the key I
stepped back from the recess.

"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall; you cannot help feeling the
nitre.  Indeed, it is _very_ damp.  Once more let me _implore_ you to
return.  No?  Then I must positively leave you.  But I must first
render you all the little attentions in my power."

"The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his
astonishment.

"True," I replied; "the Amontillado."

As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of which
I have before spoken.  Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity
of building stone and mortar.  With these materials and with the aid of
my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered
that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The
earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth
of the recess.  It was _not_ the cry of a drunken man. There was then a
long and obstinate silence.  I laid the second tier, and the third, and
the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain.  The
noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to
it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon
the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel,
and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh
tier.  The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast.  I again
paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few
feeble rays upon the figure within.

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the
throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back.  For a
brief moment I hesitated--I trembled.  Unsheathing my rapier, I began
to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant
reassured me.  I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs,
and felt satisfied.  I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells of
him who clamoured.  I re-echoed--I aided--I surpassed them in volume
and in strength.  I did this, and the clamourer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close.  I had
completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier.  I had finished a
portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone
to be fitted and plastered in.  I struggled with its weight; I placed
it partially in its destined position.  But now there came from out the
niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head.  It was
succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that
of the noble Fortunato.  The voice said--

"Ha! ha! ha!--he! he! he!--a very good joke indeed--an excellent jest.
We shall have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo--he! he!
he!--over our wine--he! he! he!"

"The Amontillado!" I said.

"He! he! he!--he! he! he!--yes, the Amontillado.  But is it not getting
late?  Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato
and the rest?  Let us be gone."

"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."

"_For the love of God, Montresor!_"

"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"

But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply.  I grew impatient.
I called aloud--

"Fortunato!"

No answer.  I called again--

"Fortunato--"

No answer still.  I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and
let it fall within.  There came forth in reply only a jingling of the
bells.  My heart grew sick on account of the dampness of the catacombs.
I hastened to make an end of my labour.  I forced the last stone into
its position; I plastered it up.  Against the new masonry I re-erected
the old rampart of bones.  For the half of a century no mortal has
disturbed them.  _In pace requiescat!_








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